Finding God

Light and shade

This morning, I was walking in our neighbourhood biodiversity park with my mother-in-law. It’s a partially man-made forest close to my house, and we go there daily. We have fallen into an interesting rhythm, she and I. So we have long moments of banter and then long silences when we dwell on our surroundings and get lost in our own thoughts. She’s a former scientist and zoology professor, and she loves observing the flora and fauna. I too love talking to trees, and relish those moments of silence when I can really connect with Mother Nature.

Today, we talked about how parts of the path had trees and shade, and other parts had no cover. My mother-in-law doesn’t like direct exposure to the sun, so when it became too sunny to handle, I comforted her saying, “There will be shade soon.” Then we were silent, as part of our usual pattern.

I noticed how the temperature dropped the moment we got to the shaded path. I noticed new leaves on some of the trees, white flowers on the tops of others. I noticed my mood getting better without the unforgiving sun beating down on me. I noticed a hundred other things, big and small. Then the shade cleared; we were in the sunlight again for another stretch.

Realisation dawned on me: “There will be shade soon.”

There are good times, and bad. But nothing lasts forever. If you are going through tough circumstances with the metaphorical sun burning you, remember and take heart: there will be shade soon.

And if you’re in the shade for now and life is going well, remember and be prepared: there will be trials and tribulations at some point. Use the relative calm to arm yourself with wisdom, courage and a network of real friends so that you can face any situation in future.

That’s how life is: light and shade, light and shade. You cannot predict what will happen next but you CAN control how you deal with it. Wear sunscreen.

Seeking God

Application of knowledge

Decades ago, when my dad had just completed his engineering degree — the highest level of education that anyone had ever achieved in his family back then — he used to be a chubby young man.

One afternoon, at home in Delhi after years away in hostel, he was lying side by side chatting with his mom on her bed. My grandmother was a graceful woman all through her life; she never raised her voice. Mostly dressed in white saris paired with pearls, there was an air of ethereal calm about her. Even when she disapproved of something you did, she expressed it softly, regally, so that you yearned to earn her approval in future.

While having this conversation, my father recalls the topic veering to his weight. In her typical gentle fashion, his mother said, “What is the point of all your education, son, if you cannot even master control over your body?”

Moved to action, my father lost several kilos and made sure his weight stayed in the normal range — where he continues to be five decades later.

At one of the study lectures I attended, the teacher talked about the ‘application of knowledge’, over and above the acquisition of it.

She likened it to having two separate bank accounts. “You are born with a certain amount of ‘loan’ from the universe; call it past karma or debts to be paid. Let’s say this amount is Rupees 50,000. Now, once you find a guru, begin on your path of self-discovery, and start acquiring wisdom, this is like earning money in another account. Let’s say you earn Rupees 70,000 in this account.”

To all appearances, she continued, it appears as if the knowledge / wisdom you have earned would cancel your debts. “But this is not automatic,” she went on. “If you do not make a conscious effort to take the money from one bank to the other, your debts stay right there. In other words, you have to work on your karmic weaknesses using the knowledge you have acquired. Otherwise, your knowledge merely turns into arrogance and you don’t progress on the path to enlightenment.”

How do we know what our karmic debts are? “Look at your habits. They are a sign of your karmic tendencies. The good habits are to be strengthened. The bad habits are symptoms of old karmic weaknesses (such as lack of self-love). Use your knowledge to attack those tendencies. Only then can you say the debts have been cleared.”

Nearly 50 years ago, my angelic grandmother advised my father to use his education to fix his negative tendencies. On Fathers Day 2014, I am inspired to do the same.

Immersing yourself in knowledge is a wondrous gift; but using it to shine the sharp torchlight of awareness on your own soul is a priceless blessing. Let us start counting ours.